On Friday, February 22, Michelle Bachelet, former Chilean president and current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned the “criminalization of dissent in Nicaragua,” with the generalized imprisonment of opposition leaders and activists “in some cases as a reprisal for cooperating with the United Nations.”
The leader noted in a statement that these arrests “clearly make it difficult to create a favorable atmosphere for the genuine and inclusive dialogue that the government says it wants.” She asked for “an independent review of the guilty verdicts and sentences imposed on the opposition leaders and activists.”
The United Nations Office for Human Rights that Bachelet leads recalled that in the last six months hundreds of people, among them farm leaders, students, former political figures, journalists and activists of civil society, have been arrested and locked up in holding cells due to the role that they supposedly played during the protests that took place between April and July of 2018.
Among those condemned in the last few weeks, the organization cited the cases of student leader Jonathan Lopez, sentenced to five years and three months in jail, and the draconian jail sentences imposed on rural activists Medardo Mairena and Pedro Mena. The latter were sentenced by the tribunals to prison terms of 216 and 210 years respectively.
“It’s a fundamental principle of democracy that people from all sectors of society can participate freely in the debate on the future of their country, without fear of being arrested or intimidated,” Bachelet expressed.
Her declaration was produced in the days leading up to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, attended by high officials from 90 governments and international organizations. The situation in Nicaragua will be one of many topics to be taken up during the three weeks of meetings.
The summit has brought human rights activists and political figures from all over the world to Geneva, among them Nicaraguan academic Felix Maradiaga, a well-known opponent of Daniel Ortega’s government. However, a spokesperson for the United Nations was unable to confirm if he would be received by Bachelet in the Swiss city.